Q: What is the Raystown Rendezvous (aka "Raystown")?
A: The Raystown Rendevous is a canoe “paddle-and-compare” camping event held once a year at Raystown Lake, Senoia Loop campground, near Hesston, PA. This "meet-and-greet" event attracts canoeists, polers, canoe builders, canoe designers, paddle makers, and anyone with an interest in canoes and canoeing, from the U.S. and Canada. Most of those present are associated with the Paddling.net
Q: When are the dates for the Raystown Rendezvous?
A: Per tradition, the event has annually been held over the "2nd full weekend of October". Yes, this sometimes encompasses the Columbus Day holiday weekend, as it did in both 2008 and 2009.
In 2009, the event was held the weekend of October 9-10-11.
Some people attend for just the whirlwind weekend, Friday through Sunday. Many paddlers arrive as early as the Monday before the weekend, to relax and enjoy the paddling opportunities on the lake and nearby Juniata River as fully as possible. Some arrive mid-week. It's up to each individual when they'd like to arrive, but things are always at full throttle for the weekend.
Q: Where is Raystown Lake located?
A: Raystown Lake is an USACOE (U.S. Army Corp of Engineers) administered park, located in south central PA, near Hesston.
Directions to Raystown Lake from various large cities are here:
Raystown Lake Directions
And here is another good map:
Map to Hesston, PA near Raystown Lake
Q: Where can I camp for the event, and what can you tell me about the camping facilities there?
A: Camping is at the Senoia Loop campground within the Raystown Lake park. Campsites are available on a first come, first serve basis only. No reservations are needed (or accepted) in mid-October. In 2009, the price for a campground was $25 a night (usually self-pay at the admitting station, as park staff hours have been cut back). The campground has clean bathroom facilities, showers, potable water, and electric at each campsite.
However, please be aware that the campsites are mainly designed for RVs and trailers. Parking pads and picnic table areas are mainly gravel, and the grassy areas are small, and not always level. If you will be tenting, (as most of us do), 10-penny nails, or heavy duty tent stakes, and an ax or heavy mallet to pound in the stakes are recommended. Tarps are also recommended to protect from rain. And lastly, bring an extra roll of TP, just in case, as the bathrooms have been known to run out over the weekend.
For more information on the Senoia Loop campgrounds, and a good location map and the campground map, with rules:
Camping at Senoia Loop
Q: Where can I check the weather report before I head out to the Raystown Rendezvous?
A: The daily Raystown Lake and weather reports for Hesston, PA can be found here:
Hesston PA Weather and Raystown Lake Reports
Local weather conditions are also available here:
Wunderground Weather for Hesston PA
Q: Is there a nearby river gauge I can check, in case I want to paddle or pole the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River?
The USGS River Gauge can be found here:
Raystown Branch of the Juniata River gauge
Q: OK, you've given me the basics. Now tell me why this "Raystown" is so special?
A: The mere mention of “Raystown” generates much excitement and enthusiasm from those who have attended. The Raystown Rendezvous is focused on the various high-end canoes brought to the event to be paddled and discussed. Paddlers from all over the U.S. and Canada, boat designers and builders (which in past have included Dave Yost, Charlie Wilson, Dave Curtis of Hemlock Canoes, Placid Boat Works, Swift Canoe and Kayak, Vermont Canoes, and Dogpaddle Canoe Works) , paddle makers, representatives from the Freestyle canoeing community, canoe trippers, gearheads, and more meet at Raystown every October specifically to paddle and “talk boats”. This event brings together the best of the canoeing community in the Northeastern U.S.
The magic of "Raystown" is also the pure joy and camaraderie of being among so many paddling people. All are happy to share knowledge, skills, boats, food, humor, and best of all, friendship.
Q: Tell me again, which boat manufacturers and designers have attended the event? Can I test paddle their boats?
A: Hemlock Canoes, Swift Canoe and Kayak, Placid Boatworks, Vermont Canoes, Dogpaddle Canoe Works, and world renown canoe designer Dave Yost have attended the Raystown Rendezvous in past years. However, there is no guarantee they will be at any future gatherings (although it is always a nice plus).
When present, manufacturers' demo boats are there to be tried out by you. However, common sense dictates that paddlers use in-water entries and exits, and treat the boats with care (no running them aground or scratching the hulls).
And please wear a PFD when trying out any boat while at the event (and, yes, the boat manufacturers require it).
Q: Can I test paddle other people's canoes while at this event? How does that work?
A: Canoes owned by paddlers at this event may be test-paddled, with owner permission, if they are located along the shoreline. Of course, care should always be taken to enter and exit all canoes in the water, and not to scratch them. Several canoe manufacturers are usually also on hand with demo canoes that may be paddled on the lake.
Remember, whether it be a manufacturer's demo boat, or the boat of someone you just met, treat each boat with respect. Launch and land carefully (no running boats aground). Always ask permission to paddle a craft before you borrow it.
Q: What is the lake like? What kind of paddling can I expect?
A: Raystown Lake is a scenic, large lake with a main channel, some islands, and many coves, surrounded by forested mountains. Lake conditions may change quickly from windy, rough, and choppy conditions to smooth, glass-like waters. Raystown Rendezvous Paddlers enjoy beautiful night paddles under the moon and stars, as well as early morning paddles in the dense mists of the lake. At any given time, it seems that someone is paddling at the Raystown Rendezvous. The pretty Juniata River is also nearby for poling a day trip in the shadows of the fall foliage-covered mountains.
Q: Is there anything else to do there?
A: Fishing is excellent on both the lake and the river. Other recreational opportunities in the park include hiking and biking. There is a small town nearby, Huntingdon, with stores and amenities.
Q: What's all this I hear about the event being "unorganized"? How can that be for such a large event?
A: The Raystown Rendezvous canoe event is a largely "unorganized" or "loosely organized" event. There is no "schedule" of events, but "pick-up paddles" on the lake may occur at any time of the day or night. However, both lake and Juniata River trips are often planned once at the campground, simply by word of mouth. A word to the wise: if in doubt about paddling possibilities, ask around!
Q: Hmmm, I heard there's a big potluck on Saturday night. What do I bring?
A: Bring whatever you like! Traditionally a large potluck is held at an available empty campsite, beginning at 5 pm on Saturday night. Most paddlers bring a favorite dish (perhaps their own "specialty") to share. Remember, the campsites have electric outlets, so rotisseries, rice cookers, and microwaves have been spotted in camp! In the past, items shared at the Saturday potluck include alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, soups, appetizers, pastas, meats, casseroles, salads, desserts (cakes, cookies, pies), and much more. Some folks also bring miscellaneous items such as plates, cutlery, and garbage bags for clean up. However, be prepared to bring your own plate, cup, and utensils if these items don't show up. There is also a WalMart in nearby Huntingdon for emergency supplies and for anyone who forgets to bring anything essential.
In 2009, an after-potluck showing of the cult comedy classic movie "The Big Lebowski" topped off the Saturday potluck evening perfectly. We hope Nightswimmer will continue this new tradition in 2010 with another comedy classic.
Q: Does anyone bring kayaks to this event?
A: Yes, a minority of paddlers do bring their kayaks. Some paddlers bring both canoes and kayaks. However, the main emphasis of the Raystown Rendezvous remains a paddle-and-compare canoe event.